Emmanuel’s Story, by his dad, Nathan
It was around 7.30pm in the evening, I had just returned home from being at the hospital all day. I was just enjoying eating a doner kebab and watching champions league on my own! I didn’t expect to get a call from the hospital, but I did and was told I had to come back because they were some complications. So I rushed back (still managing to finish my kebab!) I arrived at the hospital and they explained that baby’s heart rate was dipping, and they may need to act quick.
It was strange as medical professionals used the term “text book baby” when describing progress leading up to this point. They were happy with his readings, measurements, so it wasn’t something we were prepared for. After deliberating, staff decided they needed to deliver by emergency c section.
It all happened so quickly. The next thing I knew, I was in my scrubs, holding Charlotte’s hand and Emmanuel arrived at 11.33pm. I remember him being passed to us, his eyes fixed on us both. Just like that, he was here. Charlotte and Emmanuel were whisked away, as Dads couldn’t stay on the ward, and I was back home just after midnight! The next morning I arrived and staff were doing checks. The paediatrician came in and pulled the curtain, and said we need to take him for tests.
He had already done some of his preliminary observations so we weren’t sure what was happening, but we both sensed something. Charlotte was adamant one of us needed to go with him. So I accompanied the nurse downstairs. I remember the nurse pushing the clear plastic crib as I walked behind, still in awe and shock that I was a Dad.
I got to the room and the nurse introduced Emmanuel to another paediatrician. He asked me if I knew why they wanted to observe him. Naively I said, “Yes, to check his hearing and weight?” He told me, “No”, and closed the door, “We believe your son has characteristics that indicate he has Trisomy 21. We believe Emmanuel has Down syndrome.” The nurse looked at me. I looked at her. And I just thought, “What will I say to Charlotte? She is sat upstairs waiting to get her baby back and now the nurse and I, will have to go up and deliver the news.”
We had to wait a further 24 hours to have it confirmed and when we did, the way that the initial staff came across wasn’t ideal. For us, yes there were some tears as we shared this news with our closest family. But as the support began to flood in and we held our beautiful boy in our arms, nothing mattered.
We laughed together and dreamt of all the things we believed he would be able to do. I remember a few days later, we met the doctor and they discussed all the complications that children with Down syndrome may have. The truth is neither me or Charlotte had any idea, and we never even contemplated it.
“Welcome to Holland”, the Doctor said, referring to an essay written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987, a parent of child with Down syndrome who likened this whole experience to a trip she had planned to Italy, but instead the sign she saw was welcome to Holland. The truth is it is a real journey and one that, in all honesty, we never had prepared for.
Every milestone Emmanuel has reached has been a real blessing for us both. I remember really struggling when he was younger, meeting people for the first time, walking past members of the public who would just stare at him like he was an alien. I was so conscious about what people would think.
To all the Dads out there that struggle with this, I can reassure you that one day you wake up and realise, you don’t care! Now, I couldn’t be more proud! He’s amazing! Yes, he is cheeky, obsessed with chocolate cake (so am I, to be fair) and his iPad. He will dance morning, noon and night. He is extremely demanding and exhausting, borderline dangerous with some of his decision-making and winds his little sister up rotten! But he’s our little boy, and rather than focus on the things he can’t do, we rejoice in all the things he can do!! Our little Champ